It’s His (Hotel) Party, But You Can Cry If You Want To: In Conversation with Emile Haynie
You’ll recognize Emile Haynie from his work with Lana Del Rey, Kanye, and Eminem, but more interesting than any coverage of the musicians he’s produced for and worked with over the years, is Emile’s own story. “Collaborating with people seems to be an important part of your process, but I wonder who you are, musically, separate from that, ” I told him. We Fall, his solo debut, is a great introduction. He wrote the entire album while living at the Chateau Marmont this past year, after enduring an intense breakup. Emile’s also one of the nicest people I’ve met over the phone. At one point, I lamented the mediocrity of restaurants in Los Angeles, and as soon as we hung up, he sent me a long text message list of places he recommends—”(Persian Food): Carousel”. He owns thousands of records in a massive vinyl collection. He loves beautiful plants. If you find yourself at the Chateau one of these days, he just might be there, nursing a drink at the bar. Don’t be afraid to let him know what you thought of his album; it’s the little things that count.
Abeline Cohen: So wasn’t living at the Chateau Marmont sort of like living on a glamorous college campus?
Emile Haynie: Yeah, I think it is, but I wouldn’t really know, actually! I never went to college. But recently, I visited a college campus and I was just walking around thinking, hey, maybe it’d be fun to have gone to college and get to hang out with your friends all the time.
AC: Wait, you didn’t go to college?
EH: Nope, I didn’t even finish high school.
AC: Jesus. That’s kind of amazing, but also must have been stressful for your parents, right?
It was definitely stressful for my parents at the time, but it wasn’t a hard decision for me because I knew I always just wanted to do music. There was never a question for me. I question other things in my life, but never whether or not I wanted to do music. And I think my parents got that pretty quickly.
AC: Do your parents listen to your music now?
EH: Yeah! You know, I love getting input on music from anybody, even from people who aren’t in the industry at all. Sometimes my mom will listen to something I made and be like, this doesn’t sound right, and I’m like wow, you’re absolutely right. So that’s really cool.
AC: I love that! I also wanted to ask you about your own story coming up, because I read a little bit about it. Can you talk to me about that?
EH: So I saw Proof outside of a tour bus in Detroit, and I offered him my mixtape, which was just a bunch of beats I had worked on. He called me back later on, and was like, we need to get you in the studio. Then I ended up working with Eminem, who is one of the most talented producers I’ve ever met. It was a dream really, because I’d grown up listening to Eminem, and then I was in the studio with him. He really taught me so much. He’s an amazing producer.
AC: I have a problem, actually, because I realized that in every interview I do, I mention Eminem. I think it’s because I was so obsessed with him as a young girl, and I can just never escape that experience. Can I ask you what your least favorite Eminem album is?
EH: I don’t think I have any least favorite Eminem album. I mean, what I respect about him is that what he raps about changes, and I think that’s normal, and that progress is really respectable. Slim Shady LP is my favorite, but I don’t think I have a least favorite.
AC: Okay, so if you could work with anyone now that you haven’t worked with, who would it be?
EH: Someone that I haven’t worked with already? F***, I really want to work with Father John Misty again. It has to be someone I haven’t worked with before?
AC: Yes, for sure.
EH: Okay, then I’d have to say Sade.
“I think men have a rough time, especially in popular music. You don’t really hear a lot of true emotion from men these days.”
AC: How did the Los Angeles nightlife affect your breakup process, as well as your process while making the record?
EH: I think the nightlife helped. You gotta go out. You gotta socialize. I did this thing at the hotel I was at, and besides it being a crazy recording environment, it was also a really a scene. I guess the whole scene kind of turns me off these days, but at the time it was quite helpful.
AC: Are you exhausted from it, after finishing the record?
EH: Not really, I haven’t really stopped in terms like, you know, rolling around the same people that made the record with me. We’re kind of up to the same old things.
AC: What do you think this album would have been like without all of your collaborators and featured artists?
EH: I mean, honestly, it never would have happened without them. They pushed me all the time to make work, so I’m really so thankful for what they did for me.
AC: How do you feel about the collaborative process as one that forces you to be vulnerable? Is it important that the people you’re working with are your friends?
EH: I kind of work like that a lot—the kind of music I make, and people I work with all wear their heart on their sleeve. It makes for writing better songs, if it’s sincere. I’m not really embarrassed about anything I was 5 years ago. I think vulnerability is really integral to the process of writing better music.
AC: You would have been embarrassed?
EH: Yeah for sure, especially in the way I grew up, like not talking about I felt about love and women. It just wasn’t really a cool thing to do, it wasn’t really hip to talk about these things. Having grown up in the certain way made me feel like it was important to have this fake macho front, but I don’t feel that way anymore. Making music or being successful in your career is important to me, but spending time with someone you care about is more important than anything else.
“There’s something romantic about meeting a woman and being like, she could rip my f***ing heart out if she wanted to.”
AC: So the break-up didn’t make you feel closed off to the chance of falling love again.
EH: No, I never felt that way. I think I was little too eager when that relationship started out, because for the first time in my life, I was happy to start an adult phase of life, and I let my guard down a little bit too much. In retrospect, I’d be a bit less open. I think I’m a bit more wary, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad. But I can’t see that happening the way it happened again.
AC: Right. And it’s pretty crazy that you learned about going through an intense breakup and learned about making an album at the same time. Did you feel like any of the lessons that you learned about one informed the other?
EH: Well, music is the way I process everything, so it makes sense for that reason. You spoke about vulnerability before, and I think the willingness to assess that part of yourself makes for way better music. I think men have a rough time, especially in popular music. You don’t really hear a lot of true emotion from men these days. If you listen to the music we all love, whether it’s the Beatles or Marvin Gaye, or Curtis Mayfield—all of these cats were real, proper men and they sang about love all the time. They weren’t afraid to put that out there, and that’s really important.
AC: I agree, that men aren’t at all taught to express themselves and it ends up affecting them negatively. Like, when you’re young, you’re given no tool to express yourself with, and then by the time you reach your 20s, you’re expected to be emotionally reliable and open enough to be in relationships? It’s so f***ed up.
EH: Yeah, and when you’re in your 20s, there’s a false sense of the way you’re supposed to act. I don’t think it’s very interesting, and if you want to be an artist, and be special, and different, then you have to figure something else out. Especially with the way I am. I’m a Cancer and I think it’s definitely scary to be vulnerable, but if you put it out there early, it’s way healthier and more likely to help you build something sustainable.
AC: For sure. And so what’s a piece of relationship advice that you might have for us, based on your experience with this album and relationship?
EH: Um, you know, I really look forward to the way I felt when I was head over heels in love. It’s such a special feeling. I really look forward to that, and I think it’s okay that it comes with the bad parts. There’s something really romantic about meeting a woman and being like, she could rip my f***ing heart out if she wanted to. That’s attractive to me, I don’t know, like getting that feeling of, wow, I could really be hurt.
AC: I think a lot of people would have to agree with that. What music did you listen to while making this album?
EH: A lot of stuff I missed out on, I think when I was younger, because I was listening to hip-hop instead. I had all these weird Italian experimental vinyls that I had never listened to. When I actually sat down to write my record, I was listening to the classics, like I was listening to Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, specifically the song “Beside You” over and over again.
AC: And how is it working with different producers? Seeing as you come from the opposite end of that—
EH: I love it. There are people that I collaborate with, like Mark Ronson, John Hill, Jeff Bhasker…these are some of my favorite people who make records. These are guys I’ve become buddies with over the years, but also the best in the game. It’s always so cool to get another guy who does what I do, to get their take on it, because it’s just another perspective you can access. Especially with somebody you’re really close with, whose opinion you really trust.
AC: You love when people contribute things that you hadn’t thought of! You love that part of the creative process.
EH: Yeah, I love that! Those producers that I mentioned, they bring something unique to the table. I love to do that with all my records. I got John Hill’s opinion on “A Kiss Goodbye” and he contributed something I would never have thought of. It was awesome.
AC: Do you ever feel self-conscious when you’re working with people?
EH: Never, no. It’s the total opposite. Because it’s a snowball effect, like they’ll suggest something, and then that’s great, I’m so happy to put it in, and then I can add to things to it. Sometimes in the process of creating it really takes that extra set of ears to be able to move forward.
AC: Do you yell, ever? You seem like a fantastic mediator.
EH: No, I’m pretty good at dealing with conflict.
AC: And you never doubt your abilities as a musician in those situations?
EC: Shit, no, it’s not like that all. I love when somebody comes in that’s better than me, because then it lights a fire under me.
AC: But so you never think, “I suck at this”? Because I assume a huge aspect of the music industry must be about maintaining a thick skin. How can you continually believe that you’re good at this?
EH: Of course, there are times when I feel like I suck. I’ll have an amazing artist making something that’s amazing, like a great melody, and I just can’t crack the code, and I’m like, Jesus Christ, I should just stop. But it’s the little things, you know, like today I read something online that this guy wrote about my album…and then I saw this dude and this girl on the street, and they were like, ‘Hey man, we love your album!’ Maybe I’m sensitive to the little things, but the little things are important, you know?